ACTA: the international SOPA

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Marguerite Alberts, Staff Writer

Zachary Fouladian, Staff Writer

In the past few months, a few new bills have been put up for vote that are intended to widen the coverage of law enforcement to the Internet. These bills include Stop Anti Piracy Act (SOPA), Protect IP Act (PIPA), and Anti-Counterfieting Act (ACTA).

After protests from many different websites, including Google, Boing Boing and Wikipedia that began on Jan. 18, 2012, and attacks on pro-SOPA sites starting the next day, the SOPA and PIPA acts were postponed on Jan. 20, 2012.

Proposed by Japan to the European Union (EU) and officially drafted in 2008, ACTA is designed to fight counterfeited goods ranging from physical goods to “Internet distribution and information technology.”

President Obama signed ACTA on Oct. 1, 2011 without the permission of the Senate, saying that it was an “executive decision.” Because the legislation was signed without the permission of the Senate, American citizens had no say in the signing of this law.

“Although I disagree with it, the U.S. government could have easily signed it [ACTA] without having the uproar that SOPA and PIPA had. Obviously, it is unfair that the U.S. government signed it very secretively,” junior Matthew Hankin said.

Hankin heard about ACTA through one website titled The Young Turks, the “largest online news show in the world,” according to www.theyoungturks.com.

Through ACTA, Internet providers, copyright owners and even foreign governments would be able to censor the Internet. The guidelines within ACTA include shutting down a website if there are any copyright issues without a trial.

Article 10 of ACTA states, “At least with respect to pirated copyright goods and counterfeit trademark goods, each Party shall provide that, in civil judicial proceedings, at the right holder’s request, its judicial authorities have the authority to order that such infringing goods be destroyed, except in exceptional circumstances, without compensation of any sort.”

The act is protested by many bloggers and website owners for many of the following reasons. First, although now being discussed by the EU, the act is being negotiated by a select group of countries that are not currently within a union that has a right to write these new laws. They are not apart of the World Trade Organization, whose jurisdiction this law would fall under.

“I thought it was repulsive that various countries were trying to censor the Internet,” Hankin said.

The act was only released to the public in 2010 despite being discussed as early as 2007.  The first to report on this new legislation was Wikileaks, when they leaked out the discussion papers.

“It was leaked, so people are able to talk about it now, but before it would have been hard, if not impossible,” junior Arya Boudaie said. Boudaie heard about the act over the summer when a lot of websites started to post about ACTA, SOPA and PIPA.

From a poll of 37 Beverly students given on Jan. 27, 2012, only nine students had heard about ACTA, let alone knew anything about the act. Most of those who knew about the act were unimpressed.

The benefits of ACTA include enforcing the fight against the stealing from businesses and it builds on the Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP) effort that began in October of 2004 under the Bush administration.  STOP and ACTA both work towards the ending of trafficked goods. Both acts would help small businesses secure and enforce their rights if they spread to other countries.

There are some students who are not against this new action taken by the nations of the world. Some see these efforts as a good idea.

“I thought it was good that they’re trying to control the selling of illegal products, whether it’s pirated and bootlegged movies or something bigger. I am glad that people are actually taking it seriously and trying to do something about it,” sophomore Mabel Kabani said.

ACTA is still waiting to be officially agreed to in June of 2012 and has already been signed by the United States, Japan, Canada, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech republic, Denmark,Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lituania, Luxemburgo, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

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